Debra Schanilec

Debra Schanilec
artist; early-to-bed intender
resident: Clarkston, Michigan

Tottered on: 22 December 2007
Temperature: 40F
Ceiling: overcast
Ground: deep melting snow
Wind: SE at 2 mph

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TT with HD: Debra Schanilec

[Ed. note: DS maintains a blog, where she will likely report back on the 30-day tracking of the intention to be in bed by 9:00pm, which is discussed a bit below. Also discussed is a project to turn parking spaces into parks.]

HD: Welcome to the teeter totter!

DS: Thank you!

HD: It's been a while since I've tottered on this one.

DS: Really! Oh, because of Totter 2?

HD: Right, well, Totter 2.0 was employed a week ago Thursday, and up to then right before was kind of a lull, so it's been probably almost a month since I've been on this one.

DS: Wow! And it was the anniversary, recently, right?

HD: Right, I did not totter on the two-year anniversary.

DS: I know, aww.

HD: Which was a little bit disappointing, but I think it relieves the pressure in all subsequent years to actually have tottering on the exact date of the anniversary. So I figured, Alright, I'm getting something positive out of it. So, did you have a good drive from Clarkston?

DS: I did. Smooth sailing! A lot of people out there shopping, but I'm not, so it's alright ...

HD: ... oh, shoot, I forgot to turn this on, good thing there's backup sound. So, lots of people out shopping?

DS: Well, you know, there is a major holiday a couple of days from now.

HD: Indeed. So are you going to try to get any Christmas shopping done while you're in Ann Arbor?

DS: No.

HD: Is it all done, or is Christmas not something you even celebrate?

DS: No, about fifteen years ago, my Buddhist monk brother with a day job approached my parents and myself and said, You know, let's just unplug the Christmas machine--because we don't need anything else, ever. And so we did. And between that point and now, he and I have each had a child, and kind of adapted how we wanted our Christmas machine to go. But it's always been very low-key, and very stress-less, so.

HD: If not Christmas shopping, then, is there some other way you're planning to spend the day in Ann Arbor? Or did you just fly in to ride the teeter totter?

DS: Well that was the original motivation and then I thought as long as I'm here, I'll go have some lunch with some friends, mutual friends of ours, and then I'm going to stop by another friend's house to pick up some things I need in January. And after that I really don't know.

HD: Well, if you guys are looking for something to do, there's something called Mittenfest ...

DS: ... Mittenfest! ...

HD: ... happening over at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti. It's this year a 3-part series of musical events--last year it was just a single event. But the first part of this series was last night down the street from here at the Blind Pig. This afternoon, starting, I think at 12:00 or 1:00, I'm not sure when exactly, but they have a program of music that runs, I think, until maybe 8 o'clock. I mean, it's all afternoon. They have somewhere around a dozen artists.

DS: Awesome! So it's local ... ?

HD: ... local, independent musicians, or at least with some kind of a local tie. I think there might be some folks who used to live in the area and have moved away, but sort of circulate back through every once in a while. And Part 3 is this evening at the Elbow Room, in Ypsilanti.

DS: Okay.

HD: I'm actually going to definitely go to that.

DS: Yeah?

HD: Because Charlie Slick, one of the performers, is going to let me use my pedal-powered electric generator to run his bubble machine.

DS: Oh, that's awesome! I would go just to see that!

HD: Yeah, well, we tested the thing out yesterday, or the day before, I don't know, one day this week ...

DS: ... whenever ...

HD: ... yeah, we tested it out just to make sure I had enough horsepower to make the thing go, and it seems like I do, at least for little while.

DS: [laugh]

HD: And Charlie says to me, Well, how long the you think you can pedal that?

DS: Yeah, how long do you need bubbles for for this event?

HD: Well, I think ideally Charlie likes to have them for the whole show, which is half an hour.

DS: That's doable, right?

HD: I don't know. It's not like I'm real trained up right now.

DS: Ohhh.

HD: I mean, there was certainly a time in the fairly recent past, I would have said, Yeah, no question I can do that! But, we'll see. So I've been kind of trying to rest up.

DS: [laugh]

HD: Because, I mean, between a Thursday and Saturday it's too late to train. So I think the best strategy is to just rest.

DS: [laugh] And think good thoughts!

HD: And maybe do some stretching.

DS: Yes!

HD: Well, now you said you would go just to see that. But, this thing doesn't start until 10 o'clock.

DS: Yeah, that's a problem.

HD: Which means that if you actually follow through on this plan to start going to bed at nine o'clock, you would miss things like Mittenfest, Part 3 at the Elbow Room.

DS: Yeah, I know! It's an on-going struggle for my whole life with this nine o'clock thing.

HD: Oh, yeah? So, this is not something just real recent that you have just started talking about?

DS: The dedication to tracking for thirty days to see what happens, that's recent. But it's a lifelong struggle ...

HD: ... the struggle to get in bed by nine o'clock?

DS: Well, I know that I'm a morning person and I'm a late-night person, so if I lived, say, in a Latin American country, or a Mediterranean country, where they take afternoon siestas, that would be perfect. But obviously I don't live there. So, it's this on-going, "I really want to do that", or "I really want to stay up for that", or "I really want to get up early and exercise and write and take advantage of that early-morning creativity mojo," but it's very difficult to do both. So, I'm just going to see what happens.

HD: When you say, 'do both', you mean get in bed early and get up early ... ?

DS: No, get up early and stay up late.

HD: Oh, so that's the tension.

DS: That's the tension.

HD: I was thinking, Yeah, going to bed early and getting up early, that seems to fit together quite nicely, actually!

DS: Well, I'm hoping that it will click in with my body clock, because for the past about year and a half I've been waking up at 4:30 or 5:00 and thinking, Oh my god, there's no way--I'm just going to go back to sleep. But if I were to consistently go to sleep, or go to bed, anyway, at 9:00, then maybe fall asleep at some point by 10:00 or something. Because I have trouble falling asleep, but once I'm asleep, I'm good. But that 9-to-5 thing that would work, I'm thinking. But we'll see! Who knows?

HD: I used to work with the guy named Gus, who claimed that if you did anything for 28 days ...

DS: ... yes! ...

HD: ... that that would turn it into habit.

DS: Or 21, I've heard, that is the magic number.

HD: Oh, 21?

DS: Three weeks.

HD: It seems to me that Gus's magic number was always 28.

DS: Okay, that's even more cementing into place.

HD: That seems like a lunar cycle's worth--28 days.

DS: Yeah, exactly! So what did he accomplish in 28 days? Do you remember?

HD: I don't remember that he was trying to accomplish anything specific. When the subject of developing something into a habit would come up, he would be sure to point out that it's not a matter of just saying, Okay, we're going to do this from this day forward! That it would take around 28 days to settle it in as part of a real habit that you didn't have to think about.

DS: It's like part of your muscle memory now, at that point.

HD: So yeah, I mean, probably that's the one thing I'll still remember about Gus when I'm 90 years old--the 28 days of habit formation. I'll remember that being associated with Gus.

DS: I think that's a great thing to be remembered by.

HD: There's worse things, for sure.

DS: Exactly! [laugh]

HD: So, you don't exchange Christmas gifts with your family, but that wouldn't preclude giving Christmas gifts to other people.

DS: No, no.

HD: Is that something you do?

DS: The last few years I have gotten more, shall I say, excited about that, or even I'm kind of looking forward to it, because I'm doing it because I want to, it's not part of the cultural hysteria about Christmas. So, yeah, I kind of go, not all out, but I like to remember my son's teachers and involve him in picking something out and wrapping it. I guess this year we downgraded just to cards, because he's in fourth grade now, so.

HD: Yeah, I imagine that for teachers, a nice card that says something that's clearly a personal note as opposed to the Happy Holidays printed in the card is really appreciated ...

DS: ... yeah! Oh, yeah! He likes to sign it, and turn their name into--like one of his teacher's names is Bannister, so he'll draw a bannister.

HD: Like a stair bannister?

DS: Yeah, that kind of thing.

HD: Well, that's cute.

DS: And then friends, absolutely. A couple of years ago I went to an artists' retreat, and since then we've done a holiday love swap. Where each of us makes a certain number of things for however many people sign up, say there's 15. So each of us makes 15 things and sends them to a central location. And whoever that volunteer is gets all of our 15 love-swap goody bags sent to them. And they get to distribute them into 15 different packages and then mail them out.

HD: So, it's solely their discretion?

DS: Solely their discretion.

HD: Huh. Have you ever been the person who decided how they got allocated?

DS: No. Although I would love to do that. Maybe next year. This year it was a woman in Tennessee. Last year, it was Manhattan.

HD: So, really, all over the place.

DS: Yeah. It's all over the country, yeah. So that kind of thing, the creativity, the love, the joy, that's cool. I can participate in that.

HD: So for this year, for example, would you be comfortable describing something you made for that, or is it sort of more restricted just to that circle?

DS: Oh, no! No, no, no, no. I made some bracelets, and I looked for charms to hook on them that had some type of artist's theme to them. And on each individual box with a card--what do you call that thing that you put on the gift ... ?

HD: ... a gift card?

DS: Gift tag!

HD: Oh, yeah a gift tag, yeah.

DS: It said, Your life is your most important canvas.

HD: Hmm. So, this is a bunch of artists, so that would be something they could understand.

DS: Yes. Although, that transfers to anybody, it could even be you! You know, what you do, and how you interact with the world is the most important thing that you can contribute, being who you are, as opposed to what the culture would like you to be.

HD: So what is the world like up in Clarkston, Michigan?

DS: Well, ...

HD: ... I looked it up on Wikipedia ...

DS: [laugh]

HD: I learned that Valerie Bertinelli lives there.

DS: What?!

HD: Yeah. According to Wikipedia, Valerie Bertinelli lives in Clarkston.

DS: Are you serious?!

HD: It lists her under the 'residents' section. I mean, this is a section devoted to ...

DS: ... [laugh] I'm stunned!

HD: You've never seen her, like around town?

DS: No!

HD: I mean, it's a small, small town, right? Like 2000 people?

DS: Very small. It's very small.

HD: Well, typically on Wikipedia, authors will list the people that maybe came from a city, but this ...

DS: ... she lives there?

HD: ... well, you know ...

DS: ... that's what it said?

HD: It's a list of 'residents', that's all I know. It's a list of residents, and to me, if I were going to compile a list of residents, I would mean that to mean that they live there now as opposed to they were just from there.

DS: I love Valerie Bertinelli!

HD: Yeah? Were you a big fan of, what was it--One Day at a Time?

DS: Yes, I was! A huge fan! Of her especially. Well, now the Universe is going to arrange a meeting, I can feel it.

HD: You should keep a look-out.

DS: Well, Clarkston proper is like literally two blocks long.

HD: Do you call it--what's it's whole name--the City of the Village of Clarkston?

DS: Well, I've only been around for a little over a year, so I can't really say that I've got all the lingo down, but there is this little village, and then there's the surrounding area that kind of joins up with Waterford. Where you've got the heavy retail streets with every single Home Depot, Wal-Mart, whatever, going on. But that's a ways away, and you wouldn't have to interact with it at all, if you didn't want to. And I live right off of the interstate in sort of the last bastion of pretty much undeveloped area.

HD: So do you actually have neighbors that you can see, or is it like the next neighbor is a quarter mile down the road?

DS: It's not quite that undeveloped. It's in an older condominium complex, so. But other than that, there's a car dealership, there's a nursery, and there's a party store ...

HD: ... and when you say a 'nursery', you mean like a place for trees, not like a child care center?

DS: Yes, that's right.

HD: So, you say it's a condominium complex, so probably keeping backyard chickens is not an option?

DS: No.

HD: Unless everybody in the condominium complex ...

DS: Haven't seen any chickens, donkeys, goats, no.

HD: Because they are talking about maybe crafting an ordinance that would allow the keeping of backyard chickens here in Ann Arbor on an extremely limited basis.

DS: Really! Wow.

HD: So it will be interesting to see whether that happens.

DS: To get like organic eggs going on? Or what?

HD: Well, yeah. The idea being, that really any activity that results in nourishment for your family should not be proscribed, as long as it's not a threat to the health and safety of others. And, I think, there's legitimate concerns about that, but I think they can be addressed.

DS: True. Wow, that would be awesome.

HD: I've been scoping out the backyard trying to figure out where I would put the coop. Because I think any possibility of this going through would require language that would specify containing and covering. That's probably what it would take to make the naysayers happy. And I'm thinking between the tree and the garage.

DS: I'm thinking that, too.

HD: There's a long, narrow strip there.

DS: Now, is there some recipe for good chicken egg making? I mean, do you have to have a rooster, and like 8 hens, or?

HD: No, you don't need a rooster to make the eggs.

DS: You don't?!

HD: No.

DS: [laugh]

HD: I'm by no means an expert, but I've read enough and talked to enough people to know that.

DS: Wow!

HD: And, you know, they are social animals, I have learned that as well. So, you don't really probably want to keep a solitary chicken, but you don't need a huge flock of them. So three or four seems to be enough for them to establish literally a pecking order.

DS: [laugh] Hence, the term! How many eggs do they lay a day?

HD: I think, that if you get a good laying hen they might be able to crank out like one today. They don't have maximum production throughout their lifespan. But with three or four hens there's no doubt in my mind, based on what I've read, that you have enough eggs for your household, for sure. Unless you were just eating like, omelets, and custard, and quiche, all the time ...

DS: ... all day long!

HD: So, you know, that something I'm working a little bit on, trying to stay up to speed information-wise.

DS: So, it is there at time-line for this?

HD: I don't know if the folks at the City have actually received the formal directive from City Council to begin whatever work. I think, it's not like City staff can just go off and work on whatever creative project they want.

DS: They can't?! [laugh]

HD: I don't think so. [laugh]

DS: Sure they do.

HD: So it's got to go through the regular channels, and I'm not sure what those are, but we'll see. I mean, it's something that I discussed briefly with the neighbors across the fence.

DS: Okay?

HD: And I would have to say, it's somewhat ambiguous at this point, how they feel. I think it's ambiguous.

DS: They're not too excited about the idea?

HD: I think, all things being equal, they'd probably prefer there not be chickens. But the question then is, whether or not it would be something that on the scale of irritations, would change their quality of life to the point where they ...

DS: ... how much it would impact them ...

HD: ... and it's certainly something that I would want to respect.

DS: True.

HD: Just this morning, Christine handed our Christmas present over the fence, literally handed it over the fence--it was some sort of homemade fruit-flavored vodka.

DS: It's a tall fence, so how can you see ...

HD: ... well, I think the concern would be more about smell, mostly.

DS: No, I mean handing the gift over the fence!

HD: Oh, well, I climbed up part way. And she reached it up.

DS: Oh, okay.

HD: So, you know, I'd like to keep the flow of vodka coming. And if that meant sacrificing the chickens, I think maybe some negotiation might be called for.

DS: Happy neighbors are good neighbors

HD: Yeah, I mean I like 'em, they're nice. They do stuff for ya, without being asked.

DS: Oh, excellent! Yeah, you don't want to piss them off. Maybe you could share the eggs.

HD: That would be, I think, a given. Absolutely. I'm thinkin', what else? Let me appeal to my prep sheet. I used to bring out an entire clipboard and I've winnowed it down to a quarter sheet of paper. I know, you said that you brought your camera. And I know from looking at your blog that you have more than just a passing interest in photography, right?

DS: Yeah, it's like in my blood.

HD: Yeah? So, do you do the whole Flickr thing?

DS: I checked into that, but I just can't keep up that kind of pace. Some people post hourly. And I suppose I could post on there, but my blog serves that purpose for me.

HD: So when you have a picture that you want to put out there, you just throw it up on your blog itself?

DS: Yeah. And then there's categories that you tag each posting with. There's 'photo' [as a tag], so if you went to my blog and went down to the directory and clicked on 'photo', all of them would line up. So that's a gallery right there.

HD: So, it's TypePad that you use as a blogging platform?

DS: Yep.

HD: Are you happy with that?

DS: I am very happy with that.

HD: No complaints at all?

DS: No.

HD: If I asked you to name like the three things they you hate most about it ...?

DS: I can't think of anything.

HD: Reason I ask, at some point, I need to migrate to some sort of a proper software platform.

DS: So what do you have now?

HD: I have a text editor.

DS: Oh, my god.

HD: So, it's me typing stuff.

DS: Wow. Well, so it's more of a website than a blog at the moment?

HD: Um, yeah, I guess that's about right.

DS: But who hosts it?

HD: It's an outfit called Nexcess, which is a local company here in Ann Arbor. So I get web hosting services from them. But there is no software engine or database, it's just the collection of files. So I'm thinking that I ...

DS: ... yeah, you need a blog platform, because you need those categories. Have you checked out all of the Blogger, and Word Press, and all that?

HD: I have not thoroughly examined all of them personally, because that would take me probably a year. And by the time that I ...

DS: ... what?!

HD: Well, I'm just saying, if you really installed each software package, and got a feel for what it would be like to publish with it, develop the layout that would make it consistent with what's there already--because I would like it to be almost imperceptible to a reader, that things had changed from the point of view of layout. So I dunno. It's not number one on my list of things to do, I'll say that. Actually, higher on my list of things to do is to upgrade my camera. What kind of camera to you have? Do you have a digital SLR? One of those real fancy kind?

DS: It's not real fancy, but it is kind of in between. It's got this removable ... [Ed. note: DS retrieves her camera from a pocket.]

HD: ... oh, yeah with that viewfinder deal.

DS: Which is really cool. And it takes really great shots. I only got this in April. It's 10 mega-pixels, and I really happy with it--it's a Canon A640.

HD: So do you have any sense of what the corresponding lenses would be, analog-wise, if you had to match it up, I mean ... ?

DS: [sigh] No, I can read off what it says on the lens?

HD: Sure.

DS: Does that mean anything to you?

HD: It might, I don't know.

DS: 7.3 to 29.2 millimeter.

HD: Hmm.

DS: And then it says 1 to 2.8 to 4.1.

HD: Hmm. Yeah, I'm not able to translate that into useful information for me.

DS: I used to have an analog SLR and I used to know what all that stuff meant, but I just point and shoot now. Someday I'd like to get one of the Canon Rebels, or even ...

HD: ... what's his name, is it Andre Agassi?

DS: Oh, is he ... ?

HD: ... yeah, I think he shills for Canon. Yours, I think, it looks like its heftier ...

DS: ... it is.

HD: It's a serious camera.

DS: I used to have one similar to yours that I would carry around with me everywhere I went. And it was okay. But it was only two mega-pixels.

HD: Actually, to be honest, what I would like is something that doesn't just look like a twinkie camera. Like the lens on yours, the snout on that thing says, I'm a real camera!

DS: Yes.

HD: So, for the person having their picture taken, I want them to feel like, I have ...

DS: ... this is a professional venture here.

HD: Right. That I thought enough of them that I actually went out and got a real camera to take their picture with.

DS: Yes, I could see that. And this was only about 300 dollars.

HD: SLR's, I think they start right around 600 dollars, seems to be the baseline.

DS: And it's got video, it's got sound recording, I think.

HD: You ever shoot video with it?

DS: I haven't. There is a lot about this that I don't know how to do. I finally found the timer the other day.

HD: Oh, that's useful.

DS: It doesn't have a remote timer, a remote control. Make sure you get one of those.

HD: Why would that be useful?

DS: So you can set up like on tripod or something, and go to where you want take a picture of yourself, and then trip the timer, instead of having to be here, and then get to the place before the ten seconds or the two seconds are up.

HD: But then your timing tripping mechanism is going to be in the picture, right?

DS: Well, I suppose it could. Unless you're really good at ...

HD: ... hiding it?

DS: Putting it in your pocket!

HD: Well, what I've found that I'm actually using the timer for, is the profile shots of the teeter totter out in the wild, when I do Totter 2.0 on-location shots.

DS: Oh, yeah! Yeah, yeah!

HD: So the timer is very useful for that. Because you can't just wait for somebody to happen by, and ask them. So yeah, I'm actually getting some real life use.

DS: And people are walking by and having spontaneous interviews?

HD: Yeah, that's another plus, actually. I didn't really count on that happening. I mean, it's just sort of by habit that I invite people to ride, just because I figure it's the polite thing to do.

DS: Exactly.

HD: We're here in the midwest. And you understand this--you grew up in Minnesota, right?

DS: Absolutely.

HD: So, that's just what you do. And lo and behold, somebody actually took me up on it. And I thought, Wow, that worked!

DS: And that was a lovely interview, I enjoyed that one.

HD: So maybe I should just take the teeter totter out to a semi-public place ...

DS: ... oh, oh, like those Kleenex commercials where the guy has a couch out in the middle of Times Square or something and invites them to talk! It looks like it's a therapy session afterward, because they're crying and purging something. And at the end of the commercial they're hugging, and the person walks off.

HD: Huh. Well, I don't want any cryin' on the teeter totter!

DS: [laugh]

HD: I mean, I have to say ...

DS: You don't want to help someone with an issue?!

HD: Well, I'm not saying that. I'm just saying that I don't want them to cry while I'm doing it.

DS: But that's what this whole thing, ...

HD: ... yeah, yeah, I get it. So they actually got people to cry on camera? And then those people let them use the footage?

DS: I don't know if it was staged, or if it was real, but it was a very good commercial.

HD: I mean if you were the person sitting on the couch and you had sort of, you know, for whatever reason, just kept talking to the person and found yourself ...

DS: ... purging your soul?

HD: Right. And they captured it on camera, and they said, Okay, we'd like to use this for commercial for those Kleenexes that were being handed to you while you were crying--would you sign a waiver?

DS: Well, they did it a very well. I mean, you don't hear anything that's going on. I think you can hear traffic noises. But you can see--they cut in and cut out, you can see the progression.

HD: So, they did a professional job.

DS: Yes. They didn't share any secrets. So if that were in there--we'll just use your images--yeah, I would.

HD: Like for not for any compensation? Huh.

DS: So that would be perfect for this kind of thing. You show up on Main Street or something and see what happens.

HD: Well, maybe not Main Street--it's got to be someplace that's not going to be in the way.

DS: Well, that's true.

HD: If you wind up blocking the sidewalk, I can imagine somebody calling the---we have a special brigade here in Ann Arbor called the Community Standards Enforcement ...

DS: ... okay, in a park somewhere. Are you familiar with--I think it's in California--it used to be they would just roll up to a parking spot, and they would have sod, and they would fill up the parking spot with sod and turn it into a park.

HD: Huh!

DS: With chairs, and I think they even had a tree.

HD: So these would be metered spaces where they would feed the meter?

DS: And now they have a trailer that they pull up.

HD: Is it pulled by a bicycle?

DS: Nooo. But it should be! I think you should get together. And have the teeter totter on the trailer.

HD: I've read about people doing demonstrations having to do with parking, etcetera--what the cost of a parking space is, I mean what it costs socially ...

DS: ... the real cost, yeah ...

HD: ... by essentially feeding the meter, and setting up some performance art of some kind. On the theory that most cities, I think, whatever their ordinances say, essentially you have to feed the meter and then you can use it for whatever you want. There is no requirement that you park a car there, per se. Probably cities are starting to revise that language so that you can't do that [laugh] ...

DS: ...[laugh] That's not what we had in mind when we wrote that ordinance!

HD: I can see, maybe, say ten bicycles getting together and taking one spot, just to prove the point. That seems to me to be not so much a protest but more like an educational enterprise that surely can't bother anyone. What if we each drove a car, then we would be taking up ten spaces, and we're only taking up one.

DS: Right. Now that you mentioned it, I'll send you the link to this, so that you can see. I think supporters of these people rode bicycles alongside the trailer.

HD: The trailer with the sod laid out?

DS: With the sod laid out, yeah.

HD: So it's like a moving, mobile park.

DS: Yeah. Yeah.

HD: Well, listen, is there anything else you wanted to make sure that we talked about right here on the totter?

DS: No, I can't think of anything.

HD: Well, it turned out to be not such a bad day, it seemed like it was going to be ...

DS: ... did you think it was going to rain?

HD: Well, it is supposed to rain, right around the time I'm set to head off to Ypsilanti with my bicycle trailer loaded down with my pedal-powered generating station.

DS: Oh, well, I hope it's not freezing.

HD: Yeah, I think it's supposed to be warm at least through the middle of the night. Around 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, I think we are supposed to get some colder temperatures.

DS: So, you're covered.

HD: I think it will be alright. Plus, I figure, you know, what's the worst that could happen--I get tired and have to stop.

DS: Yeah. Exactly.

HD: Well, listen, thanks for coming over all the way from Clarkston.

DS: Thank you, it's been a pleasure.

HD: Have a good rest of the day, and give Mittenfest some consideration.

DS: I will.